Purpose

The Purpose of the Federal Court Restraint Act is to essentially codify the legal principle that federal district court decisions apply only to those who are parties to the lawsuit and within that court’s jurisdiction.

This was recently demonstrated when Alabama’s Supreme Court instructed Probate Judges to continue to issue marriage licenses in accordance with Alabama law if they were not a party to the federal trial court lawsuit that declared Alabama’s prohibition against same-sex “marriage” was unconstitutional.

How the Bill Works

The bill provides that only those state and local officials who are parties to a federal lawsuit or are within the jurisdictional boundaries of the federal district court are to comply with the federal court’s order. All other officials are to continue to apply state law and failure to do so will constitute an impeachable offense for those state officials who can be impeached and an offense for which all other state and local officials can be ousted from office.

Legal Basis for the Bill

“A decision of a federal district court judge is not binding precedent in either a different judicial district, the same judicial district, or even upon the same judge in a different case.” Camreta v. Greene, __ U.S. __, __, 131 S. Ct. 2020, 2033 n.7 (2011) (quoting 18 J. Moore et al., Moore’s Federal Practice § 134.02[1][d], p. 134-26 (3d ed. 2011)). And the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals noted in Anderson v. Romero, 72 F.3d 518, 525 (7th Cir. 1995) that federal district court decisions “cannot clearly establish the law because, while they bind the parties by virtue of the doctrine of res judicata, they are not authoritative as precedent and therefore do not establish the duties of nonparties.”

In addition, it should be remembered that “‘[i]n passing on federal constitutional questions, the state courts and the lower federal courts have the same responsibility and occupy the same position; there is a parallelism but not paramountcy for both sets of courts are governed by the same reviewing authority of the Supreme Court.'” United States ex rel. Lawrence v. Woods, 432 F.2d 1072, 1075 (7th Cir. 1970) (quoting State v. Coleman, 46 N.J. 16, 36, 214 P.2d 393, 403 (1965)) (emphasis added). In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged that state courts “possess the authority, absent a provision for exclusive federal jurisdiction, to render binding judicial decisions that rest on their own interpretations of federal law.” Asarco Inc. v. Kadish, 490 U.S. 605, 617 (1989).